space travel history, has written “New Horizons”. In July 2015, the about piano-great and around 500-kilogram probe of US space Agency Nasa flew past as the first underground missile at the dwarf planet Pluto, and provided scientists with a treasure trove of images and data.
“It was a small step for “New Horizons”, but a giant for mankind”, said head of mission, Alan Stern, then, and then-Nasa chief Charles Bolden spoke in terms of a “phenomenal day” and a “historic milestone”.
But the Pluto was not enough “New Horizons”. In more than three years, the probe has flown since then, to about 1.6 billion kilometers further – and now, the next historical Rendezvous: On Tuesday (1. January, at 6.30 am CET), while in many places of the world, the new year is welcomed, “New Horizons” fly to an object in the so-called Kuiper belt is over – as the first underground missile. It is the farthest from the earth remote Rendezvous a probe with a celestial body in space-travel history – at a distance of about 6.5 billion kilometres.
“(486958) 2014 MU69” was the name of the object so far – and because no one can remember or pronounce, has given Nasa is using an Online survey now first the nickname of “Ultima Thule”. After the flyby, Nasa wants to give the heavenly bodies, together with the International Astronomical Union, a permanent name.
“Ultima Thule” is so far only very little is known – not even whether it is one or more objects. “We expect it to be the best-preserved planetary building block that we have ever explored,” says head of mission star. “”Ultima Thule” should be a valuable window into the early period of planet formation, and the condition of the solar system more than 4.5 billion years ago.”
The “New Horizons”Team has spent the last few weeks intensively searching for potential hazards for the probe, such as moons or rocks in the surroundings of the object, but could give the green light. So that New Horizons can fly “” now even three times closer to the “Ultima Thule” as Pluto at a distance of about 3500 kilometers, and with 51.500 miles per hour. Communication with earth will take around twelve hours, but twelve hours after the flyby, Nasa expected then photos and first data.
The 700-million-Euro “New Horizons”Mission has a lot. In January 2006, the probe was launched from the spaceport at Cape Canaveral in the U.S. state of Florida, 2006 to the orbit of Mars passed by and was shortly thereafter discovered a small asteroid that was later christened “APL”. In 2007 she had approached the Jupiter to approximately 2.3 million kilometers, in 2008 the orbit of Saturn, traverses, 2011, the of Uranus, and in 2014, Neptune.
2015, then the long-awaited Meeting with Pluto – and even after “Ultima Thule” is not likely to be final. Everything goes smoothly, would send the Nasa “New Horizons” to other objects in the Kuiper belt. This ring-shaped Region, contains, according to estimates of scientists, tens of thousands of objects.
“The flyby of “Ultima Thule” is fast, challenging, and he will bring new Knowledge. Because it is the farthest exploration of something in the history of mankind, it is also historically,” says head of mission star. “What “will reveal Ultima Thule”? No one knows it. This is the most exciting for me – pure research and the fundamental science!”